Interests: Making, Digital Fabrication, Values, Equity, Feminism, Creativity, Education, Critical Thinking, Play, Sustainability

I am a PhD student at UNCC in Computing and Information Systems with a research area of HCI, advised by Dr. Celine Latulipe and Dr. David Wilson. After graduating from Wellesley College in 2014 and working under Dr. Orit Shaer in the Wellesley HCI lab, I began my PhD in Fall 2015 with a vague interest in creativity and novel interaction. Shortly after staring, Dr. Wilson approached me asking if I'd be interested in helping start a Makerspace on campus. It seemed easy enough to put some machines in a room and encourage people to be social and creative. Several years later, my understanding of what's possible for making is still evolving and I have far more questions than answers.

My current research considers the growing impact of the Maker phenomenon on society and asks what values or practices we should be embedding into Makerspaces to ensure a humane future. This involves using AI to look at trends in the corpus of stuff created by makers and using techniques from HCI to design local interventions that prompt new practices and mindsets. Much of my research work has been driven by the needs, goals, and alongside the people of the local maker community, followed up with a reflective and critical research lens.

My general goals in research and other endeavors involve looking holistically and critically at how technology intersects with various aspects of humanity. As technologists, what kind of world are we creating? What kind of world do we want to create? What decisions are we making without realizing it? What values govern those decisions and what sort of prompts for reflection could draw attention to critical moments and lead us to uncover new possibilities?

As of Fall 2019, I am supported by the GAANN fellowship with Dr. David Wilson as a teaching mentor. My teaching interests include leveraging digital fabrication and other forms of making in formal and informal learning environments to incorporate ways of thinking and doing from other disciplines, promote critical thinking, and prompt discussion about broad trends in technology.


Makerspace Normative Theory Project


Driven by an ethnographic account of the lack of guidance for makerspace leaders and a desire to address some of the well-known critiques of the making phenomenon as technosolutionist, this research project asks what should be happening in the making world? As makerspace leaders ourselves, what should we be fostering or cultivating? If we extend HCI's commitment to making as a site of democratization and participation in technological production, how do we ensure that the output of the making phenomenon is humane? Through a series of empirical studies, we investigate the nature of mindsets and practices that live in the maker world but resemble in some way sensitivities of the HCI world. These studies, combined with a theoretical investigation of the values in making and HCI, are contributing to our developing normative theory of making. The theory will provide much needed guidance for future researchers, leaders, and makers to generate versions of making that mitigate the critiques and fulfill the promises of democratization and participation.

CCI Makerspace


Our Makerspace is in the College of Computing and Informatics and focuses on digital fabrication. We serve the UNCC community from all departments and strive to foster community and enable all sorts of personal, research, or class projects. My work with the space has been as student supervisor, working closely with Dr. Wilson to manage the student staff, oversee daily operations, and nuture the community. I see the potential in spaces like ours to not only serve needs that arise, but also to seek opportunities and synergies, driving the development forward.

Statement Making


Statement Making is a digital fabrication fashion, co-directed by Madison Dunaway and myself and co-sponsored by the College of Computing and Informatics and College of Arts and Architecture. As Makerspace and Fab Lab leaders, Madison and I created the event to break free from departmental silos and traditional academics, aiming to create pathways into digital fabrication and for interdisciplinary collaboration. Running this event for 3 consecutive years has been a remarkable window into the creative energy of the student body and a glimpse of what sort of dynamic bold energetic voice indivudals and communities might have through digitial fabrication under the right circumstances.


Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Martina Balestra, Orit Shaer, Johanna Okerlund, Lauren Westendorf, Madeleine Ball, Oded Nov. Social Annotation Valence: The Impact on Online Informed Consent Beliefs and Behavior, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(7):e197, 2016.
  • Orit Shaer, Oded Nov, Johanna Okerlund, Martina Balestra, Elizabeth Stowell, Laura Ascher, Joanna Bi, Claire Schlenker, and Madeleine Ball. Informing the Design of Direct-to-Consumer Interactive Personal Genomics Reports. Journal of Medical Internet Research 17, no. 6 (2015).

Conference Papers

  • Johanna Okerlund, David Wilson, and Celine Latulipe. "A Feminist Utopian Perspective on the Practice and Promise of Making." (to appear) In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '21). ACM, 2021.
  • Lina Lee, Johanna Okerlund, Mary Lou Maher, and Thomas Farina. Embodied Interaction Design to Promote Creative Social Engagement for Older Adults. HCI International 2020.
  • Johanna Okerlund and David Wilson. "DIY Assistive Technology for Others: Considering Social Impacts and Opportunities to Leverage HCI Techniques." In Proceedings of FabLearn 2019, pp. 152-155. ACM, 2019.
  • Johanna Okerlund, Madison Dunaway, Celine Latulipe, David Wilson, and Eric Paulos. "Statement Making: A Maker Fashion Show Foregrounding Feminism, Gender, and Transdisciplinarity." In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference, pp. 187-199. ACM, 2018. (Best Paper Honorable Mention)
  • Stephen MacNeil, Johanna Okerlund, and Celine Latulipe. "Dimensional reasoning and research design spaces." In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition, pp. 367-379. ACM, 2017.
  • Orit Shaer, Oded Nov, Johanna Okerlund, Martina Balestra, Elizabeth Stowell, Lauren Westendorf, Christina Pollalis, Jasmine Davis, Liliana Westort, Madeleine Ball. Genomix: A Novel Interaction Tool for Self-Exploration of Personal Genomic Data. In Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '16). ACM, 2016.
  • Johanna Okerlund, Evan Segreto, Casey Grote, Lauren Westendorf, Anja Scholze, Romie Littrell, Orit Shaer. SynFlo: A Tangible Museum Exhibit for Exploring Bio-Design. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interacion (TEI '16). ACM, 2016.
  • Martina Balestra, Orit Shaer, Johanna Okerlund, Madeleine Ball, Oded Nov. The Effect of Exposure to Social Annotation on Online Informed Consent Beliefs and Behavior. In Proceedings of the 19th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing (CSCW '16). ACM, 2016.
  • Erin Treacy Solovey, Johanna Okerlund, Cassie Hoef, Jasmine Davis, and Orit Shaer. Augmenting spatial skills with semi-immersive interactive desktop displays: do immersion cues matter?. In Proceedings of the 6th Augmented Human International Conference, pp. 53-60. ACM, 2015.
  • Casey Grote, Evan Segreto, Johanna Okerlund, Robert Kincaid, and Orit Shaer. Eugenie: Multi-Touch and Tangible Interaction for Bio-Design. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI '16), pp. 217-224. ACM, 2015.
  • Jeffrey Schiller, Franklyn Turbak, Hal Abelson, José Dominguez, Andrew McKinney, Johanna Okerlund, and Mark Friedman. Live programming of mobile apps in App Inventor. In Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Programming for Mobile & Touch (PROMOTO '14), pp. 1-8. ACM, 2014.

Symposium Papers

  • Johanna Okerlund, Celine Latulipe, David Wilson. Considering HCI Mindsets andPractices in the Making Phenomenon: A Value-Based Approach. EduCHI 2020.
  • Johanna Okerlund, Madison Dunaway, Caleb Roenigk, David Wilson. Towards a Design Space of Short-Session Making Workshops for Middle School-aged Students. ISAM 2018.

Posters and Extended Abstracts

  • Lindsey Scheppegrell, Elyse Hiatt, Johanna Okerlund, and David Wilson. "Computational Thinking in the Making: Lessons for Second Graders in a STEM Computer Science Immersion School." In Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, pp. 1276-1276. ACM, 2019.
  • Johanna Okerlund, Orit Shaer, Celine Latulipe. Teaching Computational Thinking Through Bio-Design. In Proceedings of the 47th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education (SIGCSE '16). ACM, 2016.
  • Grace Hu, Lily Chen, Johanna Okerlund, and Orit Shaer. Exploring the Use of Google Glass in Wet Laboratories. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '15), pp. 2103-2108. ACM, 2015.
  • Casey Grote, Evan Segreto, Johanna Okerlund, Robert Kincaid, and Orit Shaer. Eugenie: gestural and tangible interaction with active tokens for bio-design. In Proceedings of the adjunct publication of the 27th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (UIST '14), pp. 127-128. ACM, 2014.
  • Irene Kwok, Charlene Lee, Johanna Okerlund, Qiuyu Zhu, Orit Shaer. musicAir: Creating Music Through Movement. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI '14). ACM, 2014.
  • Johanna Okerlund. Improving App Inventor Debugging Support. Poster presented at the Consortium for Computing Sciences In Colleges, Northeastern Region Conference (CCSCNE '14), Providence College, April 25, 2014.
  • Johanna Okerlund and Franklyn Turbak. A Preliminary Analysis of App Inventor Blocks Programs. Poster presented at Visual Languages and Human Centric Computing (VLHCC '13), Sept (2013): 15-19.

Workshop Papers

  • Johanna Okerlund, Lina Lee, Mary Lou Maher. Towards Co-creative Intelligent Agents for Gesture-based Creativity in Elderly Populations. In First Workshop on Co-Creation at the International Conference on Computational Creativity (ACM ICCC ’17)
  • Stephen MacNeil, Celine Latulipe, Johanna Okerlund. Co-creating Dimensions and Examples using Design Space Gaps. In First Workshop on Co-Creation at the International Conference on Computational Creativity (ACM ICCC ’17)
  • Johanna Okerlund and Celine Latulipe. The Curiosity Factor in a Metric for Playfulness. Workshop on Designing for Curiosity at CHI 2017.
  • Johanna Okerlund, Martina Balestra, Casey Grote, Orit Shaer, Oded Nov. An Environment For Long-Term Engagement with Personal Genomic Data, Beyond Personal Informatics: Designing for Experiences with Data Workshop, CHI 2015.
  • Johanna Okerlund, Orit Shaer Tangible Interaction for Collaborative Creative Experiences, Collaborating with Intelligent Machines: Interfaces for Creative Sound Workshop, CHI 2015.
  • Orit Shaer, Ali Mazalek, Johanna Okerlund, Casey Grote, Brygg Ullmer, Tangible Interaction With Large Data Sets Using Active Tokens, Exploring the Challenges of Making Data Physical Workshop, CHI 2015



I believe that the most effective teachers are ones who do not see their role as communicating information, but rather as facilitating students' experiences as they make sense of things through carefully designed activities and open-ended projects. I aim to set up courses to maximize amount of time I can spend interacting directly with the students such that they feel comfortable and I can understand their conceptual progress, adapt as necessary, and give personalized feedback to address different types of learners.

GAANN Reports and Progress


  • Interaction Design Studio: Provocative Design and Playful Making (Spring 2019) - The Design Studio is a project based design class that takes on a different focus each time it is taught. I created a syllabus centered around playing with tools and playing with ideas to explore alternate possibilities for the future of technology. The design prompt was to design a wearable for the Statement Making fashion show that prompts reflection about the past, present, or future of technology. I taught the course under the guidance of Dr. Maher, who was the instructor of record.
  • Human-Centered Design (Summer 1 2019) - Instructor of record for flipped classroom class focusing on methods and principles behind Human-Centered Design including needfinding, task analysis, prototying methods, principles of visual design, and evaluation techniques.

Teaching Assistant

  • Human-Computer Interaction Fall 2015
  • Rapid Prototyping and Design patterns Fall 2016


  • Graduate student mentor for Summer Research Experience for Undergrads HCI group Summer 2016
  • Lead a Capstone Course on Designing for People with Limb Differences (with Dr. Wilson) Fall 2019


  • Conference paper reviewer: CHI 2020 Papers (received special recognition for outstanding review), FabLearn 2020, DIS 2020 Papers, MobileHCI 2020 Papers, DIS 2019 Papers, TEI 2018 Works In Progress, Creativity & Cognition 2017 Papers, CHI 2016 Papers and Notes (received special recognition for outstanding review), EICS 2016 Full Papers, CHI 2015 Works-in-Progress, TEI 2015 Papers 
  • Student volunteer co-chair ICCC 2019
  • Student volunteer: UIST 2015, TEI 2016, DIS 2018
  • Ran or organized CCI Makerspace's participation in a number of workshops for programs or the general Charlotte community. Includes Charlotte Mini Maker Faire, Kids Fest, TinkerFest, NC Science Festival, ChickTech, STEM Summer Scholars' Program, other schools and camps.
  • Volunteer for Charlotte MEDI, a grassroots effort centered around making and manufacturing PPE in response to shortages due to covid-19

Personal Making

In my making endeavors, I enjoy using machines and materials in unexpected ways. I had the pleasure to participate in Fab Academy 2017, where I made some cubes that didn't really do anything, but facilitated consideration for materiality through poetry generated by passive configurations built by the users drawing upon contributions manually collected from past conversations with and around the cubes. Recently, I have been inspired by the Fab City initiative, where cities have made the pledge to become completely self-sustaining by 2054, and by related projects such as Open Source Circular Textiles to experiment with modular interlocking textiles and growing fabric made out of Kombucha.


Laser cut textiles and Kombucha fabric


Cubes with embedded electronics made from wood, cardboard, acrylic, grass, and string


Statement Making designs made from interlocking laser cut paper pieces. Madison Dunaway + co created the piece on the left